17 free iPhone apps you need right now

We take a fast look at new iPhone applications that let you drink beer virtually, interact with music in cool ways, and even do some useful things.

Last.fm

A must-have for anyone who already has a Last.fm account and uses the service to keep track of what they and their friends have been listening to, the Last.fm iPhone app also streams recommended tracks directly to your iPhone. The Last.fm streamer didn't work as well over EDGE speeds as Pandora's excellent service did. That said, it's a great way to keep your listened-to list fresh on Last.fm while you're listening to your iPod Touch or iPhone. The app keeps track of what you've heard and syncs the list with your Last.fm account as soon as you connect your iPhone to your computer.

MixMeister Scratch

This app is one of the best uses for the iPhone touch screen I've seen yet. MixMeister Scratch is a simulated turntable that lets you "scratch" audio samples, like the iPhone version of the late Jam Master Jay. You can even launch the program while your iPod is playing and scratch over your favorite songs. Sure, it isn't the most useful or mass-appeal-worthy app, but it is good fun. It may even prompt you to buy two iPhones (or to borrow a friend's) to do some beat juggling.

Pandora

Thanks to the iPhone version of Pandora's free music Web site, you may never need to use the iTunes Music Store again...just as long as you like your music to play randomly. Just enter an artist's name, press the Create button, and listen as your selected artist and similar-sounding acts play in no particular order. If you already have a Pandora account, the Pandora iPhone app lets you access your preexisting stations and even sends your listening data to your Facebook profile automatically. One fun use for this app: Put your iPhone on your bedside table and have it play your custom stations through the phone's on-board speakers — it sounds like a clock radio playing all your favorite acts. Surprisingly, this music-streaming app works without a hitch even at EDGE speeds.

Remote

Maybe this is why Apple didn't include a remote with the latest MacBooks — the company wants you to buy a new iPhone instead. The free Remote app lets you control your iTunes library or on-screen Apple TV action directly with your iPhone via a Wi-Fi connection. Once your iPhone establishes a Wi-Fi connection, you simply select your iPhone from iTunes' 'Devices' list, enter the four-digit passcode on your iPhone's screen, and use it as a touch-screen clicker. It worked seamlessly in my tests with iTunes.

SportsTap

If you need MLB, NFL, NBA, international soccer, NHL, car racing, NCAA, PGA, tennis, and other sports results fast, SportsTap covers them all — it's a nice free app that will put them at your fingertips. The interface is clean and intuitive, and the scores load fast, even on EDGE. SportsTap doesn't allow you to select a favourite team or teams to keep an eye on, but even so, the score you're looking for is always a couple of taps away.

Twitterrific

If you're a heavy-duty Twitter user or you want a better way to sort and manage all of your friends' tweets, you'll want to download this app pronto. Designed beautifully, it's a very useful front end for the popular messaging application that auto-refreshes your incoming tweet feed, allows you to reply to tweets with one touch, and lets you consolidate all your Twitter accounts on one page. There's no "Fail Whale" in sight, either, though the app has crashed a few times in my testing.

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Tim Moynihan

PC World (US online)
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